Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Normals - Reissue on Last Laugh Records

Here's another great reissue from Harry at Last Laugh Records, from The Normals out of New Orleans. I know what you're thinking, I haven't ever heard of any kind of '70s punk scene in that part of the country either, and that's why it's great to find out about singles like this that LL is determined will never be forgotten. This was their first release from 1978, entitled Almost Ready, and I'm starting to think that must have had something to do with naming Harry's other label, Almost Ready Records.

The A-Side, "Almost Ready" has the guitar taking the lead in tempo with massive power chords, setting the pace for the drum and vocal. This is surprisingly big and punchy, everything mixed at the perfect power punk volumes, even the backup ooooo's, I'm beginning to see not just the roots of Jeff Novak, the Busy Signals, or even Jay but a direct link. This literally is going on still today, but deliberately not recorded half as clear. They have a concise, manic energy here, a muted power chord chk chk chk chk verse blows up into those constant attacks while Charlie Hanson on vocal has a new wave low delivery and I can imagine around this time those lines were pretty blurred. Call it punk, or the REAL punk, but the thing I love about that classification is how little it has to do most times with the music itself and being more about a scene or ideology. If their posthumous full length sounds anything like this then I'm going to have to pick up a copy.

The B-Side, "Hardcore" on the other hand has a more minimal stark sound, the guitar leads off again with a compact crunch distortion, vocally their as punchy as the 4/4 beat with staccato lyrics off on their own rhythm, sounding like The Units or Devo. Great harmonies in a back and forth vocal of Charlie against the chorus of the band. They're really in the middle of that fracture between punk and post punk of something like The Wire and Gang of Four.
Doesn't really matter / the things we talked about.../ I wouldn't miss you if you fell through the floor
The guitar lead eventually takes over the track, and another melody is introduced that leads to a bigger punk chorus of everyone singing "My Hardcore!", with a fake finish where they reintroduce that original melody again to finish it off. Two great tracks of insane promise for the Normals.

Last Laugh not only has copies of this, pressed from the original stampers (!) but is offering an unreleased full length Vacation to Nowhere on their site.

Further reading on the New Orleans punk scene courtesy Offbeat mag and James Lien.
Also check out this live show from 1980


  1. Anonymous9:28 PM

    Strange you would find it strange that New Orleans would have punk bands in the late 70's. After moving to the Bay Area(S.F.) I went into severe culture shock. I expected much more. In N.O.'s the drinking age was 18 or if you could reach the bar ( whichever came first) . In Ca. it was a firm 21. There was a place in Berkley that would give you a non drinking stamp. There wasn't much if any punk crowd. The popular New Wave band " The Squares" was about it. They weren't punk and were nauseatingly commercial. My first night there( before knowing about the age thing) The Dead Kennedy's were playing in S.F. with The Legionaires Disease( who were friends). So bands did go through there. Given my age I can't be sure it was so far behind. Being able to read in spite of my age, I always checked the papers in search of fun but other than " The Flaming Groovies" there wasn't much. And off limits to me. Being female of course there were ways but wasn't going there. Devo was from Akron, Ohio. For the most part punk hit the east coast first and was painfully slow getting to the west. Was happy to go home to New Orleans. Check out The Wayward Youth 7" Almundo is a Weirdo". They were better live. Came out about the same time also from New Orleans. Keep in mind New Orleans has always been known for music.

  2. New Orleans is definitely known for music...of course, I think you can't hear about anything but jazz from New Orleans.

    I guess it isn't the place you normally think of, especially for that style of music, I know that's ridiculous...and that's what makes 7"'s important. How they document a local scene in places like New Orleans, the music history, punk or otherwise, in a local,cheap way.
    Of course there was a scene there, and it should be remembered. I know history gets twisted around and all you hear about is DC or CBGB's...I'm not surprised...and I am at the same time....maybe because it just hasn't been written about as much.

  3. Anonymous3:30 AM

    I'm from New Orleans too, and I can attest to the influence of the low and rarely enforced drinking age on the Punk scene; the Dolls, Stooges, and Ramones playing early gigs here, and a decent college station and record store also helped;...was too young to have seen the Normals, but saw The Cold, the powerpop band that Chris Luckette joined after the normals broke up; there's footage of them on youtube, too. Funny you should mention the busy signals; they covered "Uh Oh" by The Limit, another suburban New Orleans band. There's a doc. being made about the 70s/80s N.O. punk scene called "Almost Ready", and a N.O. punk/new wave facebook group too; worth checking out.

  4. I love that there was this massive scene in New Orleans...and a doc! Finally, it obviously needs to be covered for dudes like me who come across one lonely single like this and have no idea about that history. Thanks for the comment.